Monument to John F. Kennedy

  • Click on image to enlarge

    Photo: William Arnett, 1986
  • Click on image to enlarge

    Photo: William Arnett
c. 1986
Concrete, plaster, and paint

Bailey’s monument to Kennedy places the president under an airplane, which dispatched him quickly to the next world. The airplane is a common traditional emblem of passage in black cemeteries. This piece is on one level clearly and simply a death monument to Kennedy and to Kennedy’s posthumous association in black consciousness with deliverance—the flight of the airplane. In the time of its creation though, the airplane/Kennedy association implied something more: Kennedy’s best-known flight—to Berlin—and his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech condemning the building of the Berlin Wall. The overt patriotism and endorsement of Kennedy also scream in silent rage for a more urgent jeremiad on behalf of those who were immured down in the American South. This piece is a true and tragic lament, a monument to Kennedy’s premature departure to another world, before he finished scheduling and piloting urgently needed domestic “flights” to freedom. (Bailey mailed his plan to the federal government as a suggestion for a national monument to Kennedy, “But I never did hear back” he said, so he built his own.)